|05.14.10 at 1:28 am ET|
The Red Sox are coming off of a 7-3 homestand and feeling a lot better about themselves. But the next two weeks will be the most telling time for this team.
The Sox begin a stretch where they will play 11 of the next 13 games on the road against arguably five of the best teams in baseball. They have three games in Detroit followed by two in New York. Then they return to Fenway for a short two game set with Minnesota. The final stretch may be the toughest with three games in Philadelphia before they head to Tampa for three.
The theory is that you play .500 baseball against the good teams and beat up on the rest. But ask yourself this: Can this team afford to play .500 the next two weeks? If you ask me, they have to come out better than that.
The Sox had their struggles in the month of April but so far this month there have been a lot of positives. The offense has really turned it on. So far in the month of May, the Sox are third in average (.293), first in runs (77), tied for first in HR’s (17), first in OBP (.382) and first in SLG (.494).
It has been a good month for a couple of key guys in the middle of the lineup also. David Ortiz has begun to swing the bat a lot better, hitting .310 with 3 HR’s and 7 RBI’s. J.D. Drew has also swung a hot bat, hitting .450 for the month.
With all of the talk in the offseason about how this team will struggle to score runs, the offense has not been the reason for the Sox getting off to the start that they have. It has been pitching and defense. While the defense has improved over the last few weeks, the pitching is still a concern. For the month of May, the Sox team ERA is 5.47, good for dead last in the American League. While it has seemed that John Lester has turned the corner, Josh Beckett has continued his early season struggles. After being scratched from his last start with a lower back strain, Beckett is still trying to find himself six weeks into the season. If you ask me, he is still the key to this rotation. He needs to be more consistent on a nightly basis in order for this team to go on a run.
I don’t have a problem at all if they skip Beckett over for another start and go with Wakefield until he can iron a few things out. Wakefield is healthy so you might as well get the most out of him while you can. Daisuke Matsuzaka looked better than I have ever seen him in his last start. He had confidence in his fastball and it showed as he continually pounded the strike zone early in the game which opened the door for his secondary stuff to be that much more effective as the game went on. John Lackey didn’t look like himself Monday night but with five quality starts in his first seven this season, you should feel confident whenever Lackey takes the mound. Clay Buchholz has struggled somewhat the last couple of starts, but he has given his team a chance to win every time he has taken the mound.
If this team is going to survive the next two weeks, it’s going to be the starting rotation that gets them through it.
Playing .500 ball isn’t going to cut it. They may feel better about themselves after the homestead, but if they are going to get the local fandom on board, going 8-5 during this 13 game stretch may be just what the doctor ordered.
|05.13.10 at 1:39 pm ET|
NESN Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy talked with Dennis & Callahan Wednesday morning about major league umpires, the Red Sox’ difficult upcoming schedule and the resurgence of Daisuke Matsuzaka. He even shared an anecdote about a player sleeping in the clubhouse, comparing it to the recent Ken Griffey Jr. controversy.
‘Guys take naps all the time,’ Remy said. ‘Lee Smith was here, used to sleep, used to have to wake him up to go out to the bullpen in about the seventh inning when he was closing games. But he’d be out like a light, and if you didn’t wake him up, you wouldn’t have a closer.’
The transcript of that interview follows. You can also listen to the interview on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Do players go back in the clubhouse and look at the Amica Pitch Zone when they have a beef with the umpire?
Well, yesterday was a wide strike zone all day long. Dale Scott, on the outside part of the plate for both sides, had a big strike zone, but that last pitch to [David] Ortiz was a joke. You couldn’t hit that if you had a 70-inch bat, for Christ’s sake. Players have to adjust to that over the course of the game, but you can’t adjust to a pitch like that. I can understand his disappointment in that. That was ridiculous. But the guy was consistent all day calling outside strikes. But that one was just little bit too far outside, and you can’t even adjust to a pitch like that so he had every reason in the world to complain about it, and finally [Terry Francona] got thrown out of the game for arguing for balls and strikes.
You get those guys once in a while, and it’s very rare in today’s game that you do get guys who call pitches outside the strike zone. He did yesterday, but I have to take David’s side on that. I don’t pay much attention to Amica. It’s a feature that you have, but every umpire has their own strike zone. Yesterday, their certainly was a big strike zone for Dale Scott.
Does Major League Baseball fine guys heavily for criticizing the umpires?
I don’t know the answer to that, but I’d imagine that there would be something because I just read the comments now and I was actually laughing. Pretty good stuff, but I don’t know how funny the American League is going to find it. So we’ll have to see if anything comes down from that. ‘¦
It is frustrating when you’re battling. You’re trying to come back in a ballgame, and you’re getting calls like that made against you. It is frustrating. You’re trying to do your part to get on base, get a base hit, and you get pitches up there that you can’t even swing at. I can understand their frustration, and it happened right at the end of the game so that’s the first thing on your mind when you get into the clubhouse. You may some things that you probably shouldn’t say. But as far as the league goes, I don’t know how. I don’t know how they handle things like that. It’s a little bit different than maybe basketball, but I’m sure Dustin [Pedroia] will hear something. Read the rest of this entry »
|05.12.10 at 5:32 pm ET|
Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield recorded his 2,000th career strikeout when he punched out Blue Jays outfielder Vernon Wells to conclude the fourth inning. Wakefield became one of just four active pitchers to reach the milestone, joining Phillies left-hander Jamie Moyer and Yankees starters Javier Vazquez and Andy Pettitte.
“I’m very proud of that,” Wakefield said after the game. “It’s a tribute to longevity and I feel very blessed I’ve been able to wear this uniform for a long time and I’ve been able to accomplish 2,000 strikeouts.”
As Wakefield left the field at the end of the fourth inning, the scoreboard informed the crowd of his accomplishment. That resulted in a sustained standing ovation that prompted the pitcher to emerge from the dugout to tip his cap.
“It’s phenomenal. The fans have been behind me the whole time I’ve been here,” said Wakefield (0-2, 5.63). “I’m very proud to be able to come out and not only get an ovation for a compliment, or a great start like my last one, and they acknowledge great work. I’m honored to be able to tip my cap to them.’
Wakefield concluded his outing with five strikeouts, and now has 2,002 in his career. In his first start since April 25, he allowed three runs on five hits in seven innings, suffering a hard-luck loss in Boston’s 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Jays. Despite having delivered quality starts in three of his six turns of the rotation, he remains winless this year, stuck on 175 victories in his Red Sox career (17 behind Cy Young and Roger Clemens for the most in franchise history).
Now, he does not know what awaits. The Sox had inserted him in the rotation for Wednesday’s game as a spot starter in order to keep his arm stretched out for starting duty should the need arise. In the immediate future, it’s unclear whether the team will need him to make another start. Depending on how Josh Beckett recovers from his back spasms, Wakefield could end up back in the rotation for another start next week or he could end up being consigned back to the bullpen.
“We’ll have a much clearer idea in two or three days how we’re looking and then we can tell everybody where they are,” said manager Terry Francona. “As much as we want Beckett in there, we don’t feel the need to rush because we do know we have a professional pitcher who can go out and hopefully win a game for us.”
Wakefield represents an excellent depth option for the Sox should Beckett or another starter be unavailable due to injury. That said, as a pitcher who makes no secret of his desire to be in a rotation, he is still anything but thrilled with the idea of being an insurance option, and the uncertainty that such a role brings.
“It’s been very difficult. Obviously it’s a situation that I don’t want to be in. I’m not happy about it but it is what it is and I have to deal with it,” said Wakefield. “We’ll see what happens. We’ll see.”
|05.12.10 at 5:05 pm ET|
Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz went 2-for-4 on Wednesday, collecting his team’s only two hits against Toronto starter Shaun Marcum. But his focus after the game was on the fourth and final at-bat.
In the ninth inning, against Blue Jays closer Kevin Gregg, Ortiz worked the count full. On an offering that appeared on replays to be perhaps a few inches outside, he was called out on strikes by home plate umpire Dale Scott. After the game, Ortiz continued to fume.
“Whatever you guys think is right, just put it down. I’m too mad right now. I’m too [expletive] pissed off right now. Just write down whatever you want. Let’s leave it like that. Y’all know what’s up,” Ortiz said. “Thank God I wasn’t hitting right-handed, because that would have hit me in the ribs.”
Ortiz’ teammates were similarly non-plussed by both the controversial call against Ortiz and a check swing by Adrian Beltre on which Scott ruled that the Red Sox’ third baseman had swung. Sox manager Terry Francona emerged from the dugout on both calls, getting ejected by Scott on the second argument.
“I don’t know man. That was interesting,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia said of the umpiring. “They must have had a flight. I’m actually going to check on that. If they had a flight, we’re going to make sure it’s delayed, because I can do that. I have that kind of pull around here.”
Despite the strikeout in the ninth, Ortiz concluded a strong homestand. In May, he is now hitting .310 with a .999 OPS and three homers.
|05.12.10 at 4:08 pm ET|
The right-hander tossed seven innings while allowing three runs, but he remained winless in the 2010 campaign thanks to his team’s inability to score against Blue Jays starter Shaun Marcum. The Sox had just two hits against Marcum in the starter’s seven innings of work. With Toronto’s 3-2 win, the knuckleballer remains stuck on 175 victories in his Sox career, 17 behind both Cy Young and Roger Clemens for the most in team history.
Wakefield baffled the entire Toronto lineup with one exception. Jays right fielder Travis Snider went 2-for-3 with a double and homer, providing all the offense his team would need on a day when the Sox put just one runner in scoring position through the first eight innings. The team’s two-run rally in the ninth fell just short.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
—Tim Wakefield was tremendous in his first start since April 25. He logged seven innings, allowing just three runs on five hits and one walk while striking out five. The only Blue Jays hitter who did any damage against him was Snider, who had an RBI double and a two-run homer to account for all of the Toronto offense.
With a punchout of Vernon Wells at the end of the fourth inning, Wakefield notched career strikeout No. 2,000. He is one of just four active pitchers (along with Jamie Moyer, Andy Pettitte and Javier Vazquez) to reach the milestone.
—David Ortiz collected both of the Sox’ hits against Marcum. His 2-for-4 afternoon pushed his average up to .200, marking the first time all year that he has been above the Mendoza line. In May, Ortiz is now hitting .310 with a .999 OPS and three homers. Ortiz’ day finished on a sour note, however, as he was called out on strikes on a full-count pitch by umpire Dale Scott on what appeared to be a bad call.
–Despite the loss on Wednesday, the Sox concluded their 10-game homestand with a 7-3 record, allowing the team to improve from three games under .500 to one over. Since April 20, the Sox are 14-8.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
–Wakefield received absolutely no offensive support, resulting in the 45th time in his career when he turned in a quality start (6+ innings, 3 or fewer runs) only to suffer a defeat.
No small amount of credit belonged to Jays starter Shaun Marcum, who left the Sox unbalanced despite a fastball that only sat in the high-80s. Marcum mixed his fastball, cutter, curve and changeup to get one feeble swing after another.
His effort created a familiar storyline, as Wakefield has found himself ill supported in his starts this year. Wakefield has been backed by 3.1 runs per nine innings during his five starts this year; no other Sox pitcher has had fewer than 4.9 runs of support per nine innings.
–The Sox had exactly one scoring threat against Marcum. In the bottom of the second inning, Kevin Youkilis led off with a walk and was singled to third with one out by David Ortiz. That brought Adrian Beltre to the plate. Though Beltre entered the game with a .467/.556/1.000 line against Marcum, he flied to shallow center, and when Jeremy Hermida popped out to second, the Sox’ only opportunity with runners in scoring position was snuffed out.
Beltre went 1-for-4 on the day, and 1-for-11 in the Toronto series.
|05.12.10 at 12:01 pm ET|
“Hist tempo was much better. He got the ball and threw strikes. He used his fastball aggressively in the zone,” Francona told Dale & Holley (featuring Rob Bradford) on Wednesday. “A lot of swings and misses. A lot of balls lofted in the air that weren’t really squared up. He had no walks and nine strikeouts. It was a fun night to watch. When it comes together the glass certainly looks a lot more full.”
Francona also touched on Josh Beckett’s injury situation, Tim Wakefield’s return to the starting rotation and Jason Varitek’s hot bat to start the season.
To read the transcript look below, but to listen click here.
What did you see from Daisuke Matsuzaka that you hadn’t seen in his first two starts?
Hist temp0 was much better. He got the ball and threw strikes. He used his fastball aggressively in the zone. A lot of swings and misses. A lot of balls lofted in the air that weren’t really squared up. He had no walks and nine strikeouts. It was a fun night to watch. When it comes together the glass certainly looks a lot more full.
Did you see his fastball coming along like Matsuzaka said it was?
I think it’s been there. You look at his first two starts. He’s been good with the exception of two really tough innings. I know you can’t take those out of the line score, but he’s throwing the ball well. The one start, for whatever reason, he left the zone with his offspeed pitches. He tried to pick a little bit. I think he went into this start wanting to establish his fastball, and he did a great job of it.
|05.12.10 at 11:03 am ET|
After making three appearances out of the bullpen, Wakefield will make a spot start with Beckett likely missing at least one start with the injury. It will be the 43-year-old’s first start since April 25, when he allowed just two runs in 6’2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Baltimore Orioles. In his four starts this season, Wakefield is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA.
In the last three seasons, Wakefield has made 11 starts against the Blue Jays, going 5-5 with a 3.93 ERA. But his two of his three starts against Toronto last year were both less than stellar. He did go allow just one earned run in eight innings on May 19, but followed that up in his next start against he Jays on May 29 by allowing six runs in 4’ 2/3 innings. And in his last start of the 2009 regular season, Wakefield was shelled in a 12-0 Sox loss, letting up five runs in just three innings thanks in part to home runs by Lyle Overbay and Randy Ruiz.
The Sox will be facing a familiar foe: Shaun Marcum. The Jays starter was on the mound against Boston on April 27 and gave up just one run in seven innings, getting the no-decision thanks to a gem from Clay Buchholz. That has been a theme for Marcum over the course of this season. He has a 1-1 record despite giving up three runs or less in all but one of his seven starts and going at least six innings in each; in fact, Marcum is second in the American League in innings pitched.
After missing all of the 2009 following Tommy John Surgery, Marcum has looked strong this year. The Red Sox will have to hope that their recent experience against the Jays starter will be helpful on Wednesday.
Red Sox vs. Shaun Marcum
David Ortiz (22 career plate appearances against Marcum): .125/.364/.125, 6 walks, 5 strikeouts
Kevin Youkilis (20): .200/.200/.450, 2 doubles, 1 home run, 9 strikeouts
Adrian Beltre (18): .467/.556/1.000, 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 3 walks, 1 strikeout
Dustin Pedroia (17): .125/.118/.313, 1 home run, 2 strikeouts
Victor Martinez (15): .364/.467/.909, 3 doubles, 1 home run, 3 walks, 1 strikeout
J.D. Drew (14): .273/.429/.727, 2 doubles, 1 strikeout, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts
Mike Lowell (13): .385/.385/.615, 1 double, 1 triple, 1 strikeout
Jason Varitek (13): .400/.538/.400, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts
Marco Scutaro (5): .400/.400/.400
Jeremy Hermida (3): .333/.333/.333, 1 strikeout
Darnell McDonald is 0-3 against Marcum. Bill Hall and Jonathan Van Every have never faced the Jays’ starter.
Blue Jays vs. Tim Wakefield
Vernon Wells (69 career plate appearances against Wakefield): .271 average/.362 OBP/.322 slugging, 3 doubles, 7 walks, 6 strikeouts
Aaron Hill (35): .303/.343/.333, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
John McDonald (28): .240/.259/.320, 2 doubles, 2 strikeouts
Lyle Overbay (25): .318/.400/.500, 1 home run, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts
Jose Molina (17): .214/.353/.214, 2 walks, 1 strikeout
Adam Lind (12): .167/.167/.167, 1 strikeout
John Buck (10): .222/.300/.444, 2 doubles, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts
Alex Gonzalez (7): .167/.286/.167, 1 strikeout
Randy Ruiz (2): 1.000/1.000/2.500, 1 home run
Travis Snider (2): .500/.500/.500
Jose Bautista is 0-3 with a strikeout against Wakefield. The Sox starter has never faced Mike McCoy.
|05.11.10 at 10:14 pm ET|
Daisuke Matsuzaka was disappointed with the results of his first two starts, but recognized that there was a strong foundation for success. The right-hander told WEEI.com over the weekend that his fastball offered ample reason for encouragement, even if his 9.90 ERA fell far short of his expectations.
“When it comes to the fastball it’s really in the best place it’s been since I’ve arrived here,” Matsuzaka said through translator Masa Hoshino. “It’s a little frustrating to know how good my fastball is right now and not see the results I would like to see coming out of it. It’s all about not necessarily the pitches themselves, but how I go about using them.”
On Tuesday, Matsuzaka (2-1, 6.35) no longer had to mutter in disappointment about the disparity between his stuff and results. The right-hander flashed an outstanding fastball that he used to bludgeon the Blue Jays in a 6-1 victory. He delivered seven dominating innings, allowing just one run on three hits while walking none and striking out nine.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
–Daisuke Matsuzaka produced one of the most overpowering performances of his Red Sox career. His nine strikeouts were his most since April 1, 2008, while he produced the seventh start of his Sox career without issuing a walk. It was his first outing of at least six innings without a free pass since that same April 1, 2008, outing. Matsuzaka relied primarily on a 91-93 mph fastball with good movement, a pitch that resulted in seven of his nine punchouts.
—Jason Varitek continued his tremendous offensive surge. He blasted a Dana Eveland offering over the Monster Seats for his sixth homer of the season (in just his 36th at-bat), and later added a single and an intentional walk. With his 2-for-3 night, he is hitting .342 with a 1.287 OPS this year.
—J.D. Drew, one day after being scratched from the lineup due to vertigo, showed no ill effects of the malady. He collected a pair of hits (including a bunt single down the third-base line against the shifted Toronto infield) and also walked and stole a base (his first of the year).
—Marco Scutaro continued to be an on-base machine for the Sox. He walked twice, marking his third straight multi-walk game and his fourth straight game with at least one walk.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
—Adrian Beltre took some wild swings en route to an 0-for-4, two-strikeout night. He has now struck out 11 times in his last 24 at-bats, with opposing teams increasingly recognizing his extreme tendency to chase pitches out of the strike zone.
–Back spasms will almost certainly keep Josh Beckett from starting on Friday, according to manager Terry Francona. That said, the Sox were pleased that medical evaluations of the pitcher revealed that his back discomfort was simply from a muscle spasm, rather than a health concern with more far-reaching implications.
—Kevin Youkilis, through little fault of his own, saw his nine-game hitting streak come to an end, on a night when he had just one official at-bat. In five plate appearances, he had a sacrifice fly, two walks and was hit by a pitch, while also grounding sharply into a fielder’s choice.
|05.11.10 at 5:39 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona indicated Tuesday that Josh Beckett almost certainly will miss his next scheduled start this Friday after being unable to throw a side session because of lingering back spasms. Beckett was checked out Tuesday morning by doctors after experiencing tightening in his lower back and side.
“Beckett went over and got examined this morning and I think we just wanted to make sure everything was musculature, which it is, that’s good,” Francona said. “He’s got a spasm in his lower back. You just have to let it relax a little bit. In all likelihood, he will not pitch on Friday but because of Wake going [Wednesday] and the day off, we can stay right in order and everybody actually still gets an extra day so that works out really well.”
[Click here to hear Francona explain the situation on Josh Beckett.]
Meanwhile, Jacoby Ellsbury ran the bases on Tuesday and told Francona that he is experiencing “significant improvement” as he heals his left side. “As he ran, he actually did a lot better as he progressed,” Francona said. “He’s not really to go play yet.”
Francona said the team has determined whether he will travel with the team on its upcoming road trip. J.D. returned to the lineup on Tuesday after missing Monday with vertigo. He was given strong medication on Monday and is feeling much better. Mike Cameron [abdominal] will play center field on Tuesday for Pawtucket, get an off day on Wednesday and then play again on Thursday. “If everything goes as planned, he feels like he needs four or five games [before returning]. I don’t think there is anyway we can know.”
|05.11.10 at 2:57 pm ET|
Matsuzaka has had rough line scores since coming back from injury, as he is 1-1 with a 9.90 ERA and a particularly troublesome 1.2 strikeout/walk ratio. But the Sox starter has had good success against Toronto in his career, with a 4-1 record and 3.86 ERA in seven starts. That said, Matsuzaka has not faced the Blue Jays since 2008, when he made three starts against the AL East foe. In two of those performances, he had identical lines of seven shutout innings of two-hit ball, but in the other he let up five earned runs in six innings in a no-decision.
Toronto will have new acquisition Dana Eveland starting. The former Oakland Athletics pitcher has been a pleasant surprise for the Blue Jays early this season, coming through with a 3-1 record and 3.82 ERA in his six starts. That is already more wins than he had in nine starts last year for the A’s, when he was 2-4 with a 7.16 ERA in 13 appearances.
Unfortunately for the Jays, Eveland has been abysmal in four starts against Boston in his career. The left-hander is 0-2 with an 18.24 ERA, lasting just a combined 12.1 innings in the outings. The Red Sox faced Eveland twice last season, tagging him for five runs in 4.2 innings in a April 14 start and chasing him after just 2 2/3 innings in a July 7 start in which he gave up four earned runs. Moreover, most of the Sox roster has terrific numbers against the left-hander.
That Sox are hoping that the past will be an indicator of the present as they try for their third straight win.
Red Sox vs. Dana Eveland
Adrian Beltre (14 career plate appearances against Eveland): .385 average/.429 OBP/.462 slugging, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
Dustin Pedroia (10): .333/.400/.333, 1 walk
J.D. Drew (9): .556/.556/.778, 2 doubles, 2 strikeouts
Kevin Youkilis (9): .571/.667/1.000, 1 home run, 2 walks, 1 strikeout
Marco Scutaro (8): .500/.625/.667, 1 double, 2 walks, 1 strikeout
Mike Lowell (7) .714/.714/.857, 1 double
David Ortiz (7): .333/.429/.500, 1 double, 1 walk
Jason Varitek (7): .500/.571/.500, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts
Jeremy Hermida (4): .250/.250/.250, 1 strikeout
Blue Jays vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka
Vernon Wells (21 career plate appearances against Matsuzaka): .250 average/.286 OBP/.550 slugging, 3 doubles, 1 home run, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts
Lyle Overbay (20): .278/.350/.667, 1 double, 2 home runs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts
Aaron Hill (15): .286/.333/.571, 1 double, 1 home run, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts
Adam Lind (15): .000/.067/.000, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts
John McDonald (10): .000/.000/.000, 4 strikeouts
Jose Molina (7): .143/.143/.286, 1 double, 1 strikeout
John Buck (3): .333/.333/.333, 1 strikeout
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